I admit it.
I don’t “get” joy.
At least not the sort of joy that’s been preached and re-preached over the last several decades.
You know–joy comes in the morning and joy isn’t the same thing as happiness because joy comes from God and you can have joy 24/7/365 if you’re really following Him.
I’ve walked around this round ball of dirt for close to 40 years now. I’ve seen friends lose children. Spouses lose spouses. Predators ravage the lives of the innocent.
Many are the times I’ve seen folks, knees bent to the earth, heart spilling over the waterfall of ever-falling pain.
Joy, in those moments, is elusive.
I did a little research–my own, ignorant, probably inaccurate research–into the background of instances when joy is mentioned in the Bible. Indeed, the Bible mentions joy 50-60 times.
But I couldn’t find any verses where God or Jesus or Paul or David talk about joy being a necessary constant in the life of a believer. (Some one with a degree in theology feel free to correct me here.) Rather, Jesus lists it along with the fruit of the spirit.
Interesting, joy and all those other lofty characteristics.
Jesus compares them to fruit.
Fruit is seasonal. Fruit ripens. Fruit can miss a season if it frosts at just the right time in the growth process. Fruit flowers then buds then grows and ripens. And it only does this once or twice a year.
Maybe that was Jesus’ point. Maybe He knew how delicious the fruit of joy is, but maybe He also knew how difficult and fleeting it could be for us sorry bunch of humans.
And take David. Sure, he sang plenty of psalms about joy. But he sang plenty of others about pain. Ok, so sometimes David talks himself into joy in the last couple stanzas. But sometimes, he just laments. Sometimes he just rants about how much life hurts.
I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that you shall weep and grieve, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she gives birth to a child, has grief (anguish, agony) because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers her pain (trouble, anguish) because she is so glad that a man (a child, a human being) has been born into the world.
So for the present you are also in sorrow (in distress and depressed); but I will see you again and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take from you your joy (gladness, delight).
In Strong’s Greek definition, joy is more like something we receive, like a sunrise, implying we can’t make it happen.
Moreover, the root word, chairo, means to thrive and be well.
Plants can thrive and grow without showing fruit for a long while.
Perhaps you can relate.
This morning, after two days of long, hard, rain, my lilacs are blooming.
They’re in season.
Their sweet fragrance floats in the kitchen.
Reminds me of that old song: Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain.
Today, and often times, joy is a peony waiting to burst and lilacs in the rain.
And I don’t think Jesus minds that.
I don’t think He minds that at all.
As long as I grab the joy and hold it for a while, sinking my face into the sweet fragrance of its blossoms, letting the juice of it run out the corners of my mouth and laughing all the while, the next time He sends some my way.